Friday, April 23, 2010

Buildings contain stories of everyday life

The built fabric of Hostel 33 - specifically the additions made by those who lived in the space -contains many clues to the lives of its residents as they brought back remnants from their places of work and other sources to decorate and personalise the spaces they lived in.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum published a fascinating link this week, describing their on-going research through the respectful handling of the building and the artifacts it contains. This is a form of 'archaeology' of the site that shows how through research and continuous reflection, buildings give many clues to the stories of lives in spaces such as the Tenement Building at 97 Orchard Street New York and similarly in Hostel 33 at Lwandle.

In a similar manner there are a number of intriguing remnants emerging in Hostel 33, a selection of which are shown below. We will continue to post details such as this as we document the building.

Image from one of the partition walls at Hostel 33 showing cardboard box panels from Rainbow Chickens, wall paper pastings from Sunlight Soap bars, all nailed onto a timber superstructure with the characteristic 'bottle top' method. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Traces of more recent inhabitation of the Hostel post 1994, show election stickers for the African National Congress (ANC) from Nelson Mandela's time as head of the party. Photograph: Laura Davies.

There are many pages from popular magazines which were pasted onto walls inside hostel rooms, such as this one from the 1990s. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

In all likelihood workers residing in the hostels brought home materials from their places of work in nearby industries with which to create privacy in the hostel, such as in this image or to create insulation below the ceilingless roof. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Some remnants can be easily dated, such as this box which forms part of a screen wall in originates in the Gants canning factory which we know was a major employer or labour from Lwandle. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.


  1. Thanks for the praise, and keep up the great work researching your building!

  2. We really benefitted from the discussions earlier this year from the Telecom set up my Mark Canning and hope to stay in touch, thanks!